A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell

Call for a retreat to Nature through a realization of misdeed: a song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell

This article makes an attempt to explore the self-realization of our misdeeds to Nature based on the song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. The song clearly expresses human encroachment on a different aspect of an environment such as soil, forest, water, insects, and so on. Mitchell sees the defects in human activities which causes different elements of the environment to be dying out and being severely polluted. The major problem, Mitchell notices is that people make an artificial environment like hotel, garden, museum etc. by destroying the environment. Moreover, she argues that as long as we have natural resources we exploit it to an end. But, the time when we have no longer this all resources, then only we come to realize the need for them. This is what the researcher is going to explore through this song.

A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell

The song fundamentally deals with the issue of environmental concern. Metaphorically, the title of the song “Big Yellow Taxi” speaks for a cause to deplete the environment. Here, the Taxi serves to symbolize the industrial society. It is indeed an industrial product which is one of the causes to emit poisonous smoke. This is responsible for the air and the sound pollution. On the top of it, the song indicates that it is people who made this Taxi are mostly responsible for the environmental recession. Mitchell further sings:

They paved the paradise,

And put up a parking lot

With a pink hotel, a boutique

And swimming hot spot;

These lines of the song explicitly make clear that we have created the man-made environment. We have created the world of paradise where is an abundance of merely artificial things.  The heaven in which there is a large area of a parking lot with huge numbers of cars, marvelous hotel, buildings, pitched roads, boutiques, and swimming pool, garden and so on. We are confining our faculty of awareness of the natural environment. We rather enjoy such artificial instruments. This is where we forget the real value of nature. We have committed wrongs by being reluctant to incandescent of nature. Similarly, the ecological thinker, Jerry Mander, in his essay The Walling of Awareness writes:

. . . human beings no longer trust observation, even if the self-evident, until it is confirmed by the scientific of technological institutions: human beings have lost  insight into natural process – how the world works, the human role as one of many interlocking parts of the worldwide ecosystem – because natural process are now exceedingly difficult to observe (135).

A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell
A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell, Source: Wikipedia

Mander implies to say that we are creating a big wall around our thinking capacity. We lost our insight into viewing the world because we are unnecessarily dependent upon science and technology. We even do not believe that walking is good for health; breastfeeding is healthier for infants than other milk until it is scientifically proven. This is where Mander and Mitchell come together to call us for preserving and believing in nature. Nature is a source of lives and a solution to human problems as well. It gives us the best pleasure as Mitchell perceives when she sees out to Greenery Mountain from a hotel she stays. She goes on singing:

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Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you have got

‘Till it’s gone

They paved the paradise.

We do not recognize the importance of Nature and we lose our sense to perceive it as long as we have an abundance of resources, but when it gets finished then our sight of eyes opens up. The song further says that we are the giant-like creature. We do not know what we have but we know things by the time when they are no longer with us. At last, we realize our sins, mistakes and we cry for a loss but makes no sense. Therefore, through this song, Mitchell appeals us to realize the beauty and the need of the abundant Nature in time.

The second verse of the song goes like this:

They took all the trees

And put them in a tree museum

And they charged all the people

A dollar and a half to see ‘em,

It is the defects of capitalism which is also very much responsible for the destruction of the Natural resources. Song gives a tone of capitalism which eggs on people to cut down the trees and put them into the museum. It is people who take a dollar or a half to see those trees in a very museum. By cutting downing trees, people sell it, make furniture and variety of the handcrafts and decorate them in the museum. This is how the song reveals out the reason behind the deforestation. Similarly, the romantic poet William Wordsworth gives us the inspiration to have an inclination to the divinity of the nature in the poem “Lines Written in Early Spring”;

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To her fair works did nature


The human soul that through

me ran;

And much it griev’d my heart

to think

What man has made of man. (5-8)

Like Mitchell’s song, Wordsworth, through the poem, opines that nature is a source of divine. As we go to Nature, our soul gets revived; it starts running inside us because of its autonomous dynamicity. We become peaceful and refreshed. There is something in nature that gives us solace, gives a kind of wilderness excitement and delightful insights. Moreover, it gives the inspiration to live meaningful lives. However, the poet also alerts us about our misdeeds because it is human activities that give pain ourselves much. Such immoral acts grieve us finally more than nature does. So, the poem makes us aware that we have to preserve our life-giving God; Nature.

The “Big Yellow Taxi” points out other destructive human attitudes i.e. land pollution. This is revealed by the following lines below:

Hey farmer farmer

Put away that D.D.T now

Give me spots on my apples

But leave me the birds and the bees

Please, (18-21)

Here, Mitchell is requesting Farmers to put away that poison because it is D.D.T which kills many species of birds and insects. They are no longer now. The land has no longer its natural traits. Farmers do not deserve the right to abolish the existence of the species for the sake of profit. She rather asks the farmers to give her space for apple trees, so that birds and bees could also survive along with her. By all this, she is calling people for a realization of essentiality of Nature.

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A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell
A song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mithell, source; The Independent

Similarly, the radical environmentalist, Edward Abbey strongly argues that: What is eco-defense? Ecodefense means fighting back. Eco-defense means sabotage. Eco-defense is risky but sporting; unauthorized but fun; illegal but ethically imperative (165). By this statement, we can assume that Abbey sounds much aggressive and radical to those who are not friendly to Natural resources. According to his assumption, though it is illegal, unauthorized we have to fight back with people who destroy nature. We need to do it for the sake of preserving nature. This is how Abbey draws attention to actualize defenses of Nature.

To sum up, the song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Mitchell calls her listeners for proper take care of Nature. She rather appeals us to understand Nature and its divine characteristic which is inspiring, peaceful, uplifting to all. She also gives the suggestion that we should know the value, importance, and necessity of Nature in the time when we have them with us. She expresses her dissatisfaction with our attitude that as long as we have things, we do ignore it but when the things go wrong we lament over spilled milk. That is why; we must have to make sense of realization towards Nature in time.


Work cited

Abbey, Edward. Eco-defense: Environmental Literature and Criticism. London: Penguin,2008. Print.

Mander, Jerry. The walling of Awareness: Environmental Literature and Criticism. London:      Penguin,2008. Print.

Mitchell, Joni. Big Yellow Taxi. Ladies of the Canyon. 1970.

Wordsworth, William, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads With a Few Other Poems.London: Penguin,2007. Print.


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